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Friday, October 08, 2010

Repression in Bahrain and Divergence within the Royal Family


Translated. Original: Arabic>

Arab Refom Iniative (E-Letter)

The situation in Bahrain at the moment is ambiguous, resulting from the perplexity of the official media and the contradictions in leaked security information. This lack of clarity also reflects the perturbed relations within the royal family. The competition between the king and his partisans, and the king’s uncle (the prime minister) and his partisans, is a poorly-guarded secret in Bahrain. This competition concerns the management of wealth and political power, and expressed what is considered to be the moderation of the king in the face of the prime minister’s inflexibility.

To understand why the latest wave of repression has taken place, it is worth noting two incidents. First, last August 11th, the Interior Minters announced an act of royal amnesty to those found guilty in previous trials to a Shia religious leader. This announcement was picked up by the newspapers, who reported that it was indeed the thirteenth example of such royal magnanimity. The 30 detainees had been transported from the central prison to a police station in order to liberate them for the start of Ramadan. This act is representative o f the king’s style with respect to the opposition, which he has employed since coming to power in 1999. Despite the dissatisfaction of the prime minister, the king can claim that his magnanimous style (makrouma) has achieved a relative stability previously unknown in Bahrain.

What was not imaginable, however, arrived the following day. After a meeting with his family elders, the king back-pedaled and withdrew the amnesty. He went further by issuing orders to “fight all forms of incitement and deceit”, and called for “the use of all measures to maintain civil peace.” The security apparatus thus started on August 13th a campaign of arrests that swelled over the following weeks, reaching 250 people – all Shia- including the leaders of the opposition Haq movement. The detainees were accused of creating a terrorist organization that was attempting to “overthrow the regime.”

Two months on, the security services have still not found any hardware (arms or otherwise) that such an overthrow would require. There is also no sign that the accused will be going in front of a court any time soon, or at least not before the royal family overcomes this divergence, especially with respect to the tripped-up political reform project.


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